Filling the manufacturing skills gap through online education

The National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) is finding ways to fill the manufacturing skills gap through developing a new online and hands-on education inititiave called NTMA-U.

05/08/2014


Manufacturers are facing the challenge of finding skilled workers to fill vacant positions.  One way to close this skills gap is to train workers.  For many young workers, however, it is simply not financially feasible to stop working, enroll in a technical school, and learn the skills required for many vacant manufacturing jobs.

The National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) aims to bridge the gap between traditional degree programs and skills-based certification curricula with NTMA-U, an online education program. Through agreements with participating colleges, students can take online courses and earn credits toward an associate degree while receiving hands-on training in the workplace. Through this coursework, participants are learning what they need to complete the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) written exam, and they are gaining valuable industry-specific knowledge. In addition targeting teaching to NIMS certifications and other credentialing, NTMA-U prepares an employee to achieve the necessary skills needed to register with the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Federal Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training.

NTMA-U can reach students in all walks of life who have an interest in manufacturing, regardless of their location or proximity to a college, trade school, or industrial area.  The students currently enrolled in NTMA-U include current employees of manufacturing companies, prospective employees, and students participating in NTMA’s National Robotics League who seek to build on that experience.

The curriculum is customized and tailored to the needs of small manufacturers, with textbooks and online training guidelines developed by manufacturing companies specifically for this program.  Best practices and case studies from the Advanced Manufacturing Practices and Educational Development (AMPED) are also utilized in an effort to develop a nation-wide network of skilled workers.

NTMA-U uses online training videos to replicate a traditional learning environment. The videos are created by a team of professional manufacturing trainers under the guidance of the NTMA Education Team, which is comprised of precision machine shop owners. This ensures that NTMA-U is providing practical and relevant training for today’s manufacturing sector needs with a focus on in-demand jobs.  Students watch the videos while following along in a textbook also created by the NTMA Education Team with an emphasis on certifications.

Once a student successfully completes the course, he or she progresses to the next course.  There is no time limit to complete the course content, allowing students with limited time or other obstacles the ability to persevere in a traditional learning environment.  For example, a recent NTMA-U student successfully completed the training program while deployed overseas with the National Guard. Upon his return, he resumed employment with his company as a journeyman.

NTMA-U currently has 36 educational partners, including private high schools, vocational high schools, community colleges, career centers, technical colleges, and universities.  More than 300 students are enrolled at NTMA-U and are scheduled to graduate upon their completion of 600 hours of training. NTMA-U is registered as a Certified Training Program with the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

For additional information on NTMA-U visit http://www.ntma.org/initiatives/education. Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, associate content manager, CFE Media, jdmaahhs(at)cfemedia.com.

 



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